Monday, December 29, 2008

New Year 2009 Message

Agents of Hope and Poverty Alleviation

With the advent of the New Year 2009, everybody wants to think positively, and hopes that the New Year will be, as everybody greets, “Happy New Year” or “Prosperous New Year.” Prayerfully, 2009 will be as we wish and dream it will be: happy and prosperous. But especially for whom?

The Biblical Greeting is “Rejoice in the Lord Always” (1 Thess. 5/16; Phil 4/4). In our Christian context, the reason for rejoicing at any time is not something we have done or received from our fellow humans. The fundamental reason for our rejoicing always is that in Jesus Christ, God and Man, God has become “God with us – Emmanuel.” So that in the midst of many human negativities, accidents, cruel poverty and broken promises, we still have countless blessings to be merry and happy about. With God hope springs eternal.

Unfortunately, God’s countless blessings have been and are obstructed or hindered from reaching their respective targets. The realities: according to one study, for every 100 pesos of our national budget, 40 pesos go to debt servicing, 15 pesos for education, 1 peso and 40 centavos for health services, and only 18 centavos for housing. For every 100 pesos, sadly 43 pesos and 42 centavos become the object of greed, fraud, plunder and corruption. Recently it was said that the 23 million “poorest of the poor” have increased to 27 million, most of whom are victims of their neighbors’ greed.

There is so much to be hoped for, or there is much to be worried about in the New Year 2009. Where should New Year’s Resolutions go? While poverty alleviation is one of the Church’s social action programs with restricted funds from charity for charity, there is much to be expected from large government appropriations, not as acts of charity only, but as acts of justice and honesty. The extreme poverty of the poorest of the poor is neither natural nor normal: it is man-made and can be overcome or eradicated by acts of justice, honesty, compassion and charity.

God’s blessings are unlimited and countless. What is unfortunate is that they become limited through selfishness, injustice and corruption. Pope Benedict XVI said on Christmas Day that it is GREED that destroys the world and its peace, unbridled and criminal greed of individuals and institutions. The evil effects of greed are worse and more widespread than the evils of war.

Will the New Year 2009 be a better year for the “poorest of the poor” because they are better looked after by Society, the Church and Government? Only the future will tell! “In 2009, will someone be less poor, less hungry, better educated, because of what I shall have done?” A challenging and appropriate question to ask if we want to become agents of hope for 2009.

+Angel N. Lagdameo
Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President